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Baby’s remains unearthed from Hempfield grave 3 years ago still unidentified

November 10, 2018

Investigators may never know the identity of a baby found dead at a Jeannette sewage plant in 1967. But they still hope someone will come forward with information in the cold case.

Nearly three years have passed since the baby boy’s neonatal remains were unearthed from a pauper’s grave in Hempfield. But very little viable evidence remains, making it difficult for investigators to make any determination, said deputy coroner John Ackerman.

“We can’t even get DNA, the bones are so small,” said Ackerman, adding they are about the size of toothpicks or small twigs.

And even if they could glean some information from the remains, investigators don’t have anyone’s genetic material for a comparison, he said.

“If someone comes forward, then we’ll investigate it further,” he said.

A judge ordered the baby be buried Sept. 25, 1967, with the body of a then-unidentified teenager. Their remains were contained under grave marker A-608 in what is known as Potter’s Field near Westmoreland County Prison. Authorities believe the two cases were unrelated.

Both sets of remains were exhumed in October 2015 so state police could use updated technology in an effort to identify them.

Investigators identified the teenager as Teala Thompson, who was 13 when she went missing from Pittsburgh’s Homewood neighborhood. Her decomposed, nude body was found near a Salem Township dump on Sept. 19, 1967, but authorities were unable to identify her then. A DNA analysis confirmed her identity in August 2016.

A cause of death had not been determined, but it was ruled a homicide. Anyone with information about her death is asked to call state police. Callers can remain anonymous.

The baby’s body was found Aug. 27, 1967, lodged in the grate of a pipe leading to the Jeannette Sewage Treatment Plant in Penn Borough, according to newspaper accounts at the time. An autopsy revealed the baby had multiple skull fractures and died from “suffocation by drowning.” Investigators believed the baby was born about two months premature. They suspected the child’s mother threw him into a storm sewer about an hour after birth, according to newspaper accounts.

The infant’s bones will be kept in evidence at the coroner’s office indefinitely with hopes that future scientific advances will help them identify the baby, Ackerman said.

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